A number of children and young men were killed and dozens more wounded after explosions rocked Afghanistan’s Helmand and Herat provinces just hours apart. Though one incident appears accidental, it remains unclear if the other was the result of a deliberate attack.
Two blasts erupted at a sports field in the western Herat region on Friday, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, among them youths, according to Taliban officials.
Herat has been a frequent target of ISIS-K attacks since the Taliban took power in August. While the government said the field was recently cleared of landmines and other undetonated munitions, it noted that two other devices were found after the deadly explosions.
Some reports stated the incident may have been an accident, but officials suggested the explosives were planted at the field recently and were not merely missed after the mine-clearing effort.
No group has taken responsibility for an attack in Herat, however.
Another blast in Helmand earlier on Friday reportedly killed a group of children aged between three and 12, with the Taliban stating they happened upon an unexploded mortar and began playing with it. Two other kids were injured and are being treated.
Unexploded ordnance can plague countries after extended warfare, with leftover shells, mines and other bombs frequently killing civilians years and even decades after the end of hostilities. In Vietnam, for example, more than 100,000 people have been killed or injured by such explosives since the US withdrawal in 1975. Laos – said to be the most heavily bombed nation in history per capita after Washington dropped over 2.5 million tons of munitions between 1964 and 1973 – also faces similar problems to this day.
Afghanistan has been no exception after decades of fighting, with children often injured or killed by undetonated bombs while collecting scrap metal to earn money. According to the country’s Directorate of Mine Action Coordination (DMAC), an average of 139 civilians lose their “lives or limbs” every month due to unexploded mines and other munitions, citing a “vicious and continuous cycle of conflicts over the last four decades.”